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The Department of Justice on Thursday announced the appointment of a director for COVID-19 fraud enforcement who will lead the department’s investigations into fraud related to more than $8 billion in pandemic relief funds.
Associate Deputy Attorney General Kevin Chambers will serve in the new position. He will be in charge of the DOJ’s efforts, which have so far led to criminal charges against more than 1,000 defendants, with alleged losses exceeding $1.1 billion, according to a news release.
In addition to the seizure of more than $1 billion in Economic Injury Disaster Loan proceeds, there are also 240 civil investigations into more than 1,800 individuals and entities for alleged misconduct regarding COVID-19 relief loans totaling more than $6 billion.
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“With a chief pandemic prosecutor now in place, the Department of Justice will escalate our efforts to crack down on bad actors — and take all efforts to seize relief money stolen from American families, businesses and schools during the last administration and deliver it back to the American people,” said President Biden, who promised such a prosecutor during his recent State of the Union address.
“We are receiving an extraordinary amount of data from our state workforce agency partners,” Chambers explained in a statement. “This data holds the key to identifying and prosecuting certain types of fraud, including unemployment insurance fraud. Our strike teams will enhance the department’s existing efforts and will include analysts and data scientists to review data, agents to investigate the cases and prosecutors and trial attorneys to bring charges and try the cases. Again, this is on top of the great work our folks in the field are already doing.
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“The Justice Department remains committed to using every available federal tool — including criminal, civil, and administrative actions — to combat and prevent COVID-19 related fraud,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “We will continue to hold accountable those who seek to exploit the pandemic for personal gain, to protect vulnerable populations and to safeguard the integrity of taxpayer-funded programs.”
President Biden took a shot at his predecessor in his press release announcing Chambers’ appointment, alleging that the Trump administration “consistently undermined the watchdogs whose job it was to keep relief funds from being wasted or abused.”
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“The watchdogs are back,” Biden promised.